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       Bloodlust, p.1

           Michelle Rowen
 
Bloodlust


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Acknowledgements

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Teaser chapter

  Back from the undead

  “He—he’s alive?”

  Noah nodded.

  Fresh panic raced through me. “And he’s here? Right now?”

  “In the flesh.”

  I had the sudden urge to turn and run, to escape this bar as fast as my feet could carry me. But my legs felt like lead.

  Matthias was alive. It couldn’t be possible. It shouldn’t be possible.

  I turned as if in slow motion to see the vampire king in question step out of the shadows to my left, his pale gray gaze trained on me. My mouth fell open in shock. I couldn’t help but be stunned to see him again—alive and well and standing right in front of me.

  After all, I’d been the one who’d killed him ...

  PRAISE FOR THE PARANORMAL ROMANCES OF MICHELLE ROWEN

  “I’ve been bitten and smitten by Michelle Rowen.”

  —Sherrilyn Kenyon, New York Times bestselling author

  “Michelle Rowen never disappoints! I love her work!”

  —Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author

  “Michelle Rowen’s books never fail to thrill.”

  —Bitten by Books

  “Sassy and exhilarating . . . Epic and thrilling.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “Should leave readers breathless.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  Berkley Sensation Titles by Michelle Rowen

  THE DEMON IN ME

  SOMETHING WICKED

  NIGHTSHADE

  BLOODLUST

  Anthologies

  PRIMAL

  (with Lora Leigh, Jory Strong, and Ava Gray)

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

  South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  BLOODLUST

  A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

  PRINTING HISTORY

  Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / July 2011

  Copyright © 2011 by Michelle Rouillard.

  Excerpt from That Old Black Magic by Michelle Rowen copyright © by Michelle Rouillard.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN : 978-1-101-51636-2

  BERKLEY® SENSATION

  Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  BERKLEY® SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Thank you to Eve Silver for beta-reading and loving Declan as much as I do. To my editor, Cindy Hwang, and my agent, Jim McCarthy, for continuing to make it possible for me to share my imagination with others. To my readers for being ridiculously awesome and embracing my new, darker world of vampires. To caffeine for being my drug of choice. And to my characters for letting me be very mean to them—not that they have much choice in the matter.

  1

  RAVENOUS WAS THE PERFECT NAME FOR A PLACE LIKE this.

  I’d arrived at the seedy North Hollywood bar a half hour ago. A friend had sent an email earlier today asking me to meet him here tonight at ten o’clock because he “had to talk to me about something very important.” So here I was—ready, willing, and able to talk.

  But by ten thirty he still hadn’t shown. And I was getting worried.

  Maybe he’s dead, a little voice in my head whispered.

  My chest tightened at the thought. No, he was too smart. Too wily. Too young and cocky. I refused to allow myself to believe he’d let himself get killed. Tonight he could possibly have the information that would help get my life back to normal.

  Where are you, Noah?

  My attention shifted to a blond guy in a leather duster approaching the far left of the small dance floor. A heavy metal tune had begun to blare through the speakers, making it difficult to concentrate. Even in the dim light of the club, his skin was so pale it seemed to faintly glow, easily making him stand out from the rest of the crowd. He scanned the few dancers, coming to rest on a petite redhead wearing a micro-short leather skirt.

  When he smiled I saw the subtle glint of fangs beneath his upper lip.

  She noticed him looking and smiled back at him, thrusting her ample chest forward—the universal easy-girl’s signal for “Come and get me, bad boy.”

  The girl had no idea this bad boy was a vampire.

  “For fuck’s sake,” I said under my breath. “Don’t be so stupid.”

  Two weeks ago I thought vampires didn’t exist. But they do. There were those who preferred to keep their distance from humans, but others like this one, well . . . they were just really hungry.

  The redhead was going to die.

  I wasn’t psychic. I had no special supernatural powers, no superstrength, no otherworldly abilities—but I knew her fate. I saw it in the vampire’s pale gaze as he flicked a smug look at his friend, also standing at the edge of the dance floor.

  A large part of me didn’t want to get involved. I had my own vast and varied problems to deal with. Plus, not to judge a book by its cover, but girls like this one, seemingly alone
and vulnerable at this kind of dive, would likely find trouble sooner or later. If she couldn’t protect herself, if she had no one around to keep an eye on her, then I didn’t think her future was a bright one.

  But it didn’t mean I was just going to let this monster make her his nightcap.

  After another quick scan for the missing-in-action Noah, I slid off the tall stool and began weaving my way through the rough-looking crowd toward the exit. The vampire and the girl were now dancing together, if you could call it that. His hand closed on her ass under her short skirt, pulling them groin to groin as he pressed his lips to her throat. It looked sexy—kind of romantic, even—but I knew it wasn’t. Or it wouldn’t be for long.

  I froze in place as a horrible thought occurred to me. He was going to bite her right in front of everyone.

  I wanted to walk away, pretend I hadn’t seen the vampire, leave this club, and contact Noah another night, but I couldn’t do that. I’d never be accused of being a sweet and softhearted woman who wanted to help the helpless, but if there was a problem that was standing right in front of me and I might, possibly, be able to do something about it, then I had to. My conscience wouldn’t allow otherwise.

  “I really don’t want to do this,” I whispered to myself.

  But I did it anyway.

  I forced myself to walk close enough to brush against the vampire. He immediately caught my scent and released the girl.

  I kept walking. I didn’t have to look over my shoulder to know he was now following me. He was the mouse and I was the cheese. It didn’t really matter what I looked like, how I filled out the thin white tank top I wore, or how long my legs were under my skirt. I was irresistible.

  Believe me, I wasn’t saying it to be vain. I wished like hell I didn’t have this particular affect on the bloodsuckers.

  I exited the club. Even though it was hot air that brushed against my bare arms and legs, I still shivered. I picked up my pace, ignored my racing heart, and walked toward the parking lot out back of the bar.

  “Hey beautiful,” the vampire said from close behind me. “What’s your name?”

  I forced myself to look coyly over my shoulder. “Sorry, I don’t talk to strangers.”

  “Oh, c’mon, don’t be like that.” He was right next to me now, and he stroked a long strand of black hair off my forehead, pausing to roll it between his fingertips. He held it up so he could inhale its scent and his eyes darkened with lust and hunger. “Damn, you smell good. Where are you going, honey?”

  I shuddered. “Back to my motel room.”

  “We can keep you company.” He glanced at his friend—dark hair, sallow skin, and a slow smile stretching his gaunt cheeks. He bared his sharp fangs as if he didn’t care who saw that beneath his human facade he was a monster.

  I’d just wanted to lure the vampire away from the girl. I didn’t want this, but it did come with the territory. I tried my best to stay calm. “I don’t want company. Really, just leave me alone.”

  “And what if we don’t want to leave you alone?”

  “Then you’re in serious trouble.”

  He grinned at that, then inhaled deeply and thin, dark veins branched along his jawline and down his neck. Each vampire showed their hunger slightly differently—it was like a fingerprint, and along with their fangs it revealed them to be much different from humans. The black of his pupils spread out to cover the pale gray of his irises.

  His hand shot out and he grabbed me by my throat. I clawed at his arm as he dragged me around the corner into an alleyway, and then he threw me roughly at his friend.

  “Hold the bitch still,” he snapped.

  I tried to struggle against him. I’d hoped very hard it wouldn’t come to this, but I’d overestimated how much control a hungry vampire had. Fear laced through me as the blond’s lips peeled back from his fangs.

  “No, wait—my blood—” But I wasn’t able to finish my sentence. He wrenched my head to the side so violently he easily could have snapped my neck. I gasped in pain as his fangs sliced into the soft flesh of my throat.

  The vampire’s friend had grabbed my left breast and was squeezing it so hard that tears sprung to my eyes.

  “She tastes incredible,” the blond growled as he slurped at my blood.

  A moment later, he gasped and pulled back from me, his black eyes registering surprise now that he realized that my incredible blood came with a bit of an aftertaste.

  “What’s wrong?” his friend asked.

  “I don’t know.” The vampire’s mouth gaped open and he touched his lips, looking down at the unnaturally dark crimson color of my blood on his fingertips. His brows drew together in confusion before he staggered back a few steps from me.

  When he screamed, fire poured out of his mouth. In mere seconds, the only thing that remained of Thirsty Vampire #1 was a fall of fiery ash, turning the hot July night into a Christmas card from hell.

  The paralyzing effect of the bite disappeared and I clamped my hand to my neck to stop the flow of blood. I felt weak and my legs threatened to crumple beneath me. I had to struggle to remain standing. The vampire’s friend moved his shocked gaze to me. His hunger showed along his hollow cheekbones, the sallow skin etched with a spiderweb of dark blue veins, his eyes soulless and black as pitch.

  “You’re the one I’ve heard about, aren’t you? Your blood is poison to us.” His voice was a whisper, but his hands were clenched, his jaw tight. Anger and grief flashed through his eyes as he came at me, not waiting for my answer.

  He wasn’t going to bite me. He was going to kill me just as I’d killed his friend.

  Before his hand did more than brush against my throat, someone grabbed him, spun him around, and a scarred fist slammed into his jaw, knocking him backward.

  “Don’t fucking touch her,” the man attached to the fist growled. His gaze flicked to me, resting on my injured throat for a split second, before returning to the vampire.

  I pressed back against the cold wall as the vampire recovered quickly and launched himself at his attacker. Silver flashed, too fast to fully register. The blade sank into the vampire’s chest right up to the hilt. He attempted to pull it out, but didn’t have enough time. His hands burst into fire along with the rest of his body and he exploded outward into another ashy cloud.

  The knife clanged to the pavement and the man crouched to snatch it up and slide it into the sheath he wore at his hip. Then he glared at me through his right eye. The left was covered by a black patch. He’d lost the eye a long time ago in another fight with a vampire in which he hadn’t fared quite as well as this.

  I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath. I finally released it and inhaled shakily.

  He was well over six feet tall, heavily muscled, and covered in ragged scars, including those on his face, branching out from where his eye patch sat, down his cheek and jaw and along the left side of his neck. His dark hair was cut very short, almost shaved. He wasn’t the type of man you wanted to meet in a dark alley like this. Not if you valued your life. Declan Reyes was scary as hell.

  My hero.

  I finally allowed myself to relax just a little bit and I wiped my tears away.

  He came toward me and roughly brushed the hair back off my neck. “Let me see.”

  I reluctantly pulled my hand away from the bite wound.

  “Damn it, Jill.” His lips thinned. “What the hell did you think you were doing just now? Trying to get yourself killed?”

  “They were going to kill a girl in there. Right in front of everyone.”

  “So you offered yourself up as a willing sacrifice instead ?”

  “I thought I could distract them without getting bit. I guess I was fooling myself.”

  “Where’s Noah?” He pulled a clean rag from his pocket and held it against my throat.

  “He hasn’t shown yet.”

  “Then you shouldn’t have stuck around.” He glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the bar. “You need to stop trying to
protect others all the time. You have to focus on protecting yourself.”

  Declan had a tendency to see me as way more altruistic than I actually was. “So I should have just stood by and watched them tear her throat out?”

  “Next time come find me first before you decide to play the pied piper to vampires.” He touched my face gently. “Are you okay?”

  “I’ll be fine.” I searched for some emotion on his battlescarred face—anger, fear, maybe even annoyance—but came up empty.

  “We need to go,” he said.

  “But Noah—”

  “Isn’t here. Something must have gone wrong. We’ll wait for him to contact us again.”

  “Don’t you think we should wait just a little while longer?”

  “No. Best to cut our losses and try again later.”

  I felt the thud of disappointment push away the small amount of hope I’d allowed myself to feel earlier. Declan had chosen to remain outside when we’d arrived just before ten o’clock. While it wasn’t the classiest bar in Los Angeles, the way he looked—like death incarnate, which as a vampire hunter he came by honestly—might have gained us a bit too much attention.

  Declan was a dhampyr—human mother, vampire father. While this gave him a great deal of extra strength, it wasn’t nearly the same as being fully vampire. He healed much faster than a human, but every single time he received a flesh wound it left a scar behind as a reminder of the horror he’d been through.

  It was Declan who’d kidnapped me, kicking and screaming, from my normal life two weeks ago. It may as well have been two years by how different I felt and looked. It was the Nightshade formula I’d been injected with that had changed my hair and eyes to black. It was the Nightshade that meant any vampire who drank my blood would die a horrible, fiery death.

 
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